Hugh and David ran the NYC Half and worked in tandem to both achieve PRs. Hugh ran a 1:14:13 and David ran a 1:14:32
Hugh’s Race Report
After waking at 6 am and drinking two cups of coffee, I took a cab down Fifth Avenue, and arrived 10 minutes later at the race onboarding site on Central Park South. I checked my translucent bag for pickup at the finish (containing a blanket from the NYC Marathon and a MetroCard) and walked through a metal detector to access the race corrals. I knew David Roeske would be running, and found him near the front of corral one. After David introduced me to fellow Whippet Josh Whitcraft, I ate one of my energy gels and had a drink of water. Marry Wittenberg made a few remarks, and the race gun went off.
David had more in the tank than I did, and he led me for the first few miles. I have a tendency to go out too slow, so his pacing was helpful. I stopped at the first few water stations on the east side to ease my dehydration from the coffee. We passed through the 5K in 17:50 (5:45 pace), around 110th on the West Side, and we turned south down the Park Drive on the West Side. As we worked our way through the rolling hills, I was beginning to feel warmer and more energized. I ditched my gloves and had another gel as we neared a water station. I wanted to keep the pace restrained in the first half, and we went through the 10K just south of 59th street and Seventh Avenue in 36 minutes flat, which works out to ~5:51 pace for the 5K-10K leg.
By this point, approaching the halfway point in Times Square, I was ready to pick up the pace. Times Square was mostly vacant at this hour on a Sunday, and kind of glum actually. As we ran by Barclays, I wondered if any analysts might still be there finishing an all-nighter. I slowed down a bit to take another gel. When David passed me, I worked to catch up. We encountered the strongest headwinds of the race as we turned right to head west across 42nd street. David and I shrewdly ran single file behind another runner, drafted off of him to conserve our energy. A big crowd of Whippets cheered us on as we neared the highway.
As soon as we reached the West Side Highway, the winds moderated a bit and we passed the runner we had been drafting on. With five miles to go, we gradually accelerated the rest of the way down the highway, picking off a couple runners every 20 meters, holding pace with them for a minute, then moving to the next pack in the distance.
I was heartened to see a work colleague cheering me on at 23rd street, and we passed through the 15K in 53:31, which equates to 5:38pace for the 10K-15K stretch.
David and I now had a visual on the skyscrapers around the World Trade Center, at the Half Marathon’s finish, and I knew we had a good chance of breaking 1:15 if we held our pace. My legs were beginning to get tired, and I took another gel. We ran by Matthew Wong and other Whippets cheering us on. We kept accelerating until we reached the 20K mark inside the Battery Park tunnel in 1:10:41, which represented a ~5:32 pace for the 15K-20K section.
Despite the elevation swing of descending into the tunnel and the incline back up to street level, I appreciated the tunnel’s lack of wind and found it easier there to tune out and focus on my form than at street level. As I entered the home stretch, I caught a few more runners, although one of them fought back and narrowly edged me out over the finish line. David crossed 19 seconds after me, and we proceeded to pick up some water and finishing medals, then had our photos taken. We went into a heated tent (provided by the Hospital for Special Surgery) to foam roll our IT bands and stretch our hamstrings.
This was my first, NYC half, but it will not be the last – I found this race to be as superbly planned and executed as the higher-profile NYC marathon. And I ran a negative split, something I strive for in nearly every race, but rarely achieve. After two months of no running in December and January due to an IT band injury, it was uplifting to PR by nearly two minutes and to have a gauge of my fitness heading into the spring and summer running seasons.
David’s Race report
Last Sunday I ran my 12th half marathon, and my 5th NYC Half. The NYC Half is my favorite half marathon course, and I was happy to get a big personal best on it this year, but those two reasons aren’t why it was by far my favorite half marathon experience so far. The reason for that, was the fact that I got to run most of it with another Whippet, Hugh Parker. I’ve never run a race before in which I had a friend running it who was running at a similar pace, so, like my solitary treadmill training, most races are solo affairs once the running gets going.
Joining the Whippets a few years ago increased the feeling of support I felt from spectators by 100x, but running the races themselves was still something that has generally been just me and people I didn’t know around me. So last Sunday was a totally new experience. I was the lucky one, as Hugh Parker is normally a lot faster than I am (he was two and a half minutes ahead of me in the marathon last fall). But due to training schedules and injury recovery, he and I both had a similar target of breaking 1:15 and so we set off with the goal of running together if possible, and pulling each other forward if one or the other felt faster.
I got off a little too fast in the first couple miles, and then we settled into a solid pace. It felt good to ease a bit when the other person was grabbing some water or a gel, and then pick up the rhythm again, with the sense that we had another teammate in the battle. As we exited Central Park and began the run down 7th Avenue, Hugh’s edge on me in fitness started to show, and from then on I think I was the primary beneficiary of the teamwork. He pulled ahead on the slight hill exiting the park and I reminded myself to stick with him and pick up the pace on the downhill. Luckily I was able to do it, and we stayed together through Times Square and on to the turn west on 42nd Street. The wind started to pick up here and we settled into single file behind another guy for a couple avenues to break the wind. It was great to run past the Whippets cheering section and hear the roar. We didn’t stay behind the other guy too long though, and Hugh cut around him and looked back to see I was staying with him as he pushed into the wind. I was game and we passed.
Then after the quick up-and-down double back onto the West Side Highway, Hugh solidly picked up the pace, as I had told him I have always done on this course — with the aid of a great tailwind in past years! This year the tailwind wasn’t there but regardless, it was time to roll. Hugh started picking off packs of runners and a few times got 20 or so feet in front of me, normally a point where I’d let someone go, but this time I was determined to stay with him as long as possible, and we ended up turning in some much faster splits — most of our miles in the park were in the 5:40s and 5:50s, but on the West Side Highway we dropped to around a 5:35 pace.
By now we were passing a good number of people and though my legs were feeling it a little, I was having a great time. It’s absolutely amazing how quickly the distant One World Trade Center grows closer and closer as you cruise down the flat highway. We were still together as we passed Matt Wong and the last Whippets cheering section. In mile 11 and 12, we picked up the pace again, with 5:31 splits for me–but Hugh had another gear and started building about a 50 yard lead on me. By now it was time to just put our heads down and finish strong. We both kept passing people through the tunnel and on the hill at the end of it. With our negative splits (something I almost never have), I actually don’t remember anyone passing us since leaving the park or earlier!
Soon it was 800 meters to go, then 400, then the turn to the finish with about 200 to go. There was no one near me now and I could see Hugh was in a finish-line sprint when I turned the corner. I picked up the pace, but not as much as I would have if someone was next to me. Should have gone harder, of course :). Hugh finished 19 seconds ahead, and together we headed for some pics and the stretching tent. The feeling of camaraderie and teamwork was a much bigger source of not only speed but also enjoyment in the race than I had ever imagined. Thanks to the Whippets for making this possible!
A few notes on my pre-race food and hydration. The day before I ate lighter and lower fiber than normal. My worst experience in a half marathon came after eating a massive plate of broccoli the night before… So, for dinner I had just one medium serving of pasta. Morning of I drank a liter of water, and then another liter mixed with a scoop of CarboPro (tasteless, long-burning carbs), and a scoop of Cytomax powder. I also carried a water bottle with a packet of caffeinated EBoost powder in it to drink on the train. I try to get all my hydration done about 45 minutes before race start so I can be empty before I run. One year I had to stop at a porta-potty a mile in from too much drinking. That sucked, but not as much as eating too much broccoli. The only thing I ate was two bags of Honey Stinger chews. With all these simple and complex carbs but no solids, I had tons of energy and a light stomach for the run.
This post is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Dashing Whippets Running Team, its board, or its captains.